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Frequently asked questions

There are many common questions about stuttering answered below. If the question you are looking for is not here, or if you have any follow up questions, please contact us.

Questions about stuttering

What causes stuttering?
While the root cause is not fully known, brain functioning (neurology), genetics, and environmental factors all play a role. Because speaking and communication are highly complex and depend on interaction with others, many factors can make stuttering worse in some situations. These factors include high expectations, frustration, listener reactions and anxiety about stuttering.
Current brain research indicates that there are neurological differences in people who stutter. For instance, there is more brain activity during speech - especially in the right hemisphere - compared to that of a person who does not stutter. It is in dispute whether these neurological conditions cause stuttering or are caused by the brain trying to compensate for stuttering.
Is stuttering generic?
Stuttering can run in families. About 6 out of 10 people who stutter are thought to have a family member who also stutters. Research on extended families where stuttering is predominant has found specific types of genetic mutations. These mutations are thought to cause a difference in brain functioning, which leads to stuttering. While researchers have found genetic similarities in people who stutter, no single genetic cause - or gene - has yet been clearly identified, but research is ongoing.
Can stuttering be cured?
While many people are able to reduce the effect of stuttering on their lives, there is no actual cure for stuttering. There is specialist speech therapy for stuttering in Canada, and it can be beneficial at any stage of life.

Questions about treatment

What are the best treatments for stuttering?
Treatments that combine learning fluency techniques and reducing the anxiety around stuttering are most effective. Finding a speech and language pathologist who specializes in treating stuttering is the first step. To effect real change, a PWS must set goals and deal with issues of self-identity and commitment to a treatment plan. Two to four week intensive courses with a small group of people who stutter generally show the best results. Sessions once a week can also be highly effective.
The best treatments for children who stutter are those where parents and other family members are closely involved under the guidance of a specialist speech and language pathologist.
I am an adult who stutters, how do I obtain speech therapy?
Contact a speech-language pathologist who has experience working with people who stutter. The Canadian Association of Speech-Language and Audiology Canada (SAC) has a database of registered SLPs across Canada. There are also provincial associations of speech-language pathologists, who may also be able to direct you to clinics or health centres that provides therapy.
Two to four-week intensive therapy programs at stuttering treatment clinics are available in Edmonton, Calgary, Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal.
Is stuttering treatment covered by health insureance?
Most health insurance programs cover a small portion of speech therapy costs – usually about $500 per year. This is minimal when private speech therapy costs are typically more than a $100 per hour. Many employers are beginning to offer additional insurance programs such as health spending accounts which can be used for such costs as speech therapy. Do not give up on obtaining therapy as there may be deferred payment options or scholarships available through therapy programs.
What can I expect from speech therapy?
In conjunction with learning fluency techniques, most SLPs also focus on reducing anxiety and negative feelings. PWS are taught to develop strategies to successfully deal with stuttering, to practice speech techniques and use them in real life speaking situations. Sometimes PWS want to focus exclusively on achieving total fluency, an approach which requires a high degree of motivation and discipline on their part and a daily practice regimen. Expectations and goals should be discussed with a therapist before and during therapy. PWS who take group sessions or intensive courses will meet other people who stutter, and this can be a highly valuable part of treatment.
People can often see a big improvement in their speech particularly after an intensive course. For the changes to be long-term and for any setbacks to be dealt with, they will need a personal maintenance plan after sessions end. It usually takes several months to thoroughly learn new speaking and communication skills. Many clinics offer refresher courses to support people not sliding back into old habits.
Are there drugs to reduce stuttering?
There are no medications on the market for the purposes of controlling stuttering. A psychiatrist may recommend anti-anxiety drugs that some PWS have reported reduces stuttering to a degree, and the stress around it. It is a complex area. Extensive tests on drugs such as Pagoclone show unacceptable side effects for small gains in fluency and a reduction in anxiety. There is ongoing research to test new medications that have more dependable results.
I am an adult and I have recently started stuttering after an accident/illness/surgery/traumatic incident. Should I get speech therapy?
As therapy is expensive and time consuming, it is important to get the right kind suitable to your specific condition. Your physician can advise you. A stroke or brain injury can cause speech disorders and will require therapy. In some cases, it is possible that a psychologist or trauma counsellor might be more effective to address late onset stuttering.
I took speech therapy for years and it didn’t help. Why not?
When a PWS does not see results from treatment, it could be due to the fact it was not the right time in his or her life, or the therapist was not a good fit, or countless other reasons. It is not a sign of failure. Sometimes unrecognised personal issues need to be dealt with first. Changing how one speaks is tied to personal identity and relationships. Long-term benefits from therapy come from commitment to practicing new ways of speaking and thinking until they really become ingrained. Change is hard work. It can be helpful to recognise that stuttering is sometimes easier — strange though that sounds. A new phase of life may mean fluency and self acceptance has taken on more importance, and a fresh approach could be more successful.

Questions about assistive devices

What is the SpeeachEasy device? Does it work?
The SpeechEasy is a delayed auditory feedback device (DAF) that has been shown to reduce stuttering in some people in some situations. The effect of DAF on stuttering was illustrated in the movie the King’s Speech. The modern version is worn like a hearing aid, and feeds back a person’s voice as he speaks with a micro-second delay. Speech pathologists recommend it be used in conjunction with speech therapy techniques. It is not a treatment per se, as the effects are not present when one is not wearing the device. The degree of effectiveness varies depending on the person and the situation.
Because it has to be personally fitted to you, the cost of the SpeechEasy is high, more than $4,000, and is not covered by provincial health care programs.
For more information, see the User Review: Speecheasy™ Auditory Feedback Device and the Effects of the SpeechEasy.

Questions about children who stutter

How do I get treatment for my child who just started suttering?
It is recommended that children who exhibit stuttering receive speech therapy as soon as possible. Over 80% of young children who stutter grow out of it, but there is no way to tell if a child’s stuttering is a temporary phase that will pass or if it will be permanent. A treatment specifically to help pre-school age children who stutter, the Lidcombe method, has been shown to be very effective. Other approaches also work. Canadian Association of Speech-Language and Audiology Canada (SAC) features a listing of registered speech-language pathologists. For older children, sometimes they can receive speech therapy through the Canadian public school system (ask your child’s teacher) or your local general hospital, at no charge. Enquire in your community.
How can I help my child who stuters?
Encouraging conversation, self expression and communication about topics big and small can help a child build confidence and resilience. Parents should show they are interested in what the child is saying, and that there is no hurry. Without asking questions all the time, they can share their own thoughts and opinions, and give their child a chance to share theirs. While speech therapy helps, the home environment and communicative relationships with others will ultimately determine a child’s success in coping with stuttering.
My child who stutters has been goign to speech therapy but is still stuttering. Why?
Not all children respond to speech therapy for a variety of reasons. It is not necessaary to blame the child, the therapist, or yourself. The therapist can discuss in detail a child’s overall development with parents. There may be another approach that will help the child’s confidence, such as focusing on developing interests and talents to increase feelings of self-worth.
Children benefit greatly from conversation and communication at home with family. Helping them develop confidence in expressing themselves, stuttering or not, and building communicative relationships will be of great benefit. The child may choose to return to therapy when they are older – and it may have better results when they initiate it themselves.
My child who stutters is being bullied at school. What can I do?
School can be a challenge for children who stutter, especially at recess and lunchtimes when there is less direct supervision than in the classroom. In elementary school, first contact your child’s classroom teacher. Explain how stuttering affects your child, and describe the incidents of teasing and bullying, and the effects of these on your child. Also any SLP who treats children will phone or visit a child’s teacher to talk to inform them about stuttering, as many may not have a lot of knowledge about the condition. Ask how issues of bullying and aggressive behaviour are discussed within the whole class. If the teacher’s response is not satisfactory, the next step is to approach the principal.
In secondary school, parents can speak to teachers their child likes and respects, or a guidance counsellor. Older children may be more reluctant to report incidents, but threats of violence must be reported. Strategies for dealing with bullying – such as using humor in response, or walking away from the bully –. can be discussed.
More information at Kid’s Health and the Anti-bullying program for children who stutter.

Other questions

Should I join a support/self-help group?
The CSA has revived support groups across the country. In these groups participants may discuss their feelings around stuttering in a safe and supportive space. See the Support Groups for more information.
Is stuttering a disability in Canada? Can I apply for the Disability Tax Credit?
A person who stutters can apply for the Disability Tax Credit by submitting the Canada Revenue Agency Form T2201. The form is jointly completed by the applicant and a qualified practitioner, such as a medical doctor or a speech language pathologist. Whether or not you qualify depends on the degree to which a disability restricts one of the basic activities of daily life. The CRA defines speaking as a basic activity.
It is important to note that a recent change to this credit allows the CRA to take into consideration the cumulative effect of restriction in two or more of the basic activities of daily life. In effect, even if you do not meet the threshold level of restriction in any one daily life activity (like speaking), a lesser degree of restriction in two or more categories may still qualify you for this credit.
Additional details about this credit can be found on the Canada Revenu Agency (CRA) website.

Last updated: 2021-04-14